Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I just saw this lecture by Spolsky, where he questions the need for choices and confirmation dialogs. At some point he has a MacOS settings window and he mentions that "now some are getting rid of the OK button". The window indeed has no OK (or cancel) button. Changing a setting makes it change, when you're done configuring, you close that window, period.

Being a long time Windows user and a recent Mac owner, the difference is noticeable at first. I looked for the OK button for a while, only to find out, quite naturally and painlessly, that there was none. I expressed satisfaction and went on my merry way.

However, I'm curious to know if this UI design pattern would succeed in the Windows-based world. Granted that if Microsoft brought it out with say Windows-8 (fat chance, I know), people would get used to it eventually. But is there some experience out there of such an approach, of changing the "confirmation paradigm" on a platform where it's so prevalent? Did it leave users (especially the non-technical ones) confused, frustrated, scared, or happy?

TL;DR: Remove OK/cancel confirmation, what happens?

EDIT:

Mac GUI for appearance settings.

alt text

share|improve this question
add comment

6 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I find a nice middle ground is when some text is temporarily displayed (not in a pop-up) saying "your change has been successfully saved" or something similar to Google Doc's auto-saving

share|improve this answer
    
Very good point. Definitely better than a modal window proclaiming "Hey, I just did something!!" –  MPelletier Nov 25 '10 at 17:13
add comment

If there's no OK/Cancel, there better be Undo.

share|improve this answer
add comment

You said so yourself : you looked for the OK button for a while. Users should find things right away.

share|improve this answer
5  
By that standard you could never improve a really bad system that at least one user has been trained to use. –  Thomas Lötzer Nov 25 '10 at 16:04
    
@Niphra: Yes, but I'm a developer. I'm wondering if non-technical people will feel alienated. –  MPelletier Nov 25 '10 at 16:06
    
@Niphra: Oh, I'm re-reading your answer differently now. Yes, users should find things right away, but they are looking for an arguably superfluous step. Does that still apply? –  MPelletier Nov 25 '10 at 16:08
1  
@Thomas: the question specifically stated we weren't talking about a widely used app ("Granted that if Microsoft brought it out with say Windows-8 (fat chance, I know), people would get used to it eventually"). You can change users' habits when you build the software they will use everyday, otherwise it will annoy them. –  Niphra Nov 25 '10 at 16:35
1  
"Elegance and familiarity are orthogonal" -- Rich Hickey –  Joonas Pulakka Nov 26 '10 at 10:25
show 2 more comments

The thing is, that works very well with technically proficient, confident users. However, I think you'd run into a world of hurt with non-proficient users who frequently, say, mis-click, or change a setting other than the one they intend, and suchlike - especially if the dialog that you just closed without a confirmation is hard to find for non-proficient users.

Less "are you sure?" dialogs would be great for me - but it would kill my mother.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The role of the confirmation dialog is for the user to CONFIRM that the changes he made are the ones that he intended to and he didn't changed something unintentionally.

If a world with no OK buttons you must ensure that either:

The user makes always the right choices [yeah, right]

or

  1. The changes are not irreversible
  2. The undo operation is simple
  3. Once a change is done without confirmation from the user, the user is aware of its effects - in a short after. You don't want the user to find out that the change he made unintentionally, 6 weeks ago, had unwanted effects

So, in conclusion, I don't think that confirmation dialogs prevents user from taking the wrong decision or doing something unintentionally but at least it offers another layer of protection for the end user. However, for a user with a lot of experience, this might be annoying.

share|improve this answer
    
Obviously there's degrees here. For example, you absolutely want your "Delete all tables, files, and settings irrevocably" option to have a solid confirmation. Yet cosmetic changes, or ones easy to rollback, could be done silently, even if there's no direct undo for some. –  MPelletier Nov 26 '10 at 1:30
add comment

But is there some experience out there of such an approach, of changing the "confirmation paradigm" on a platform where it's so prevalent?

Introducing a total change of paradigm in an established environment and for just a routine operation would stall a great number of users.

Did it leave users (especially the non-technical ones) confused, frustrated, scared, or happy?

If the change does not address a known problem, but just introduces something different "to try it out", then this change will likely invoke all of the mentioned emotions except for happiness.


For me this sort of dialogs is one thing that I strongly dislike. Why? Because it's not immediately clear how it works. You have to learn and adopt this way of thinking. Meaning it's not good for inexperienced users.

Look at the meaning of the word "dialog". It's the two-way communication between the machine and the user in this case. The natural way would be:

U: Change the setting
M: I changed it (text message or something)

or

U: Change the setting
U: Click the save button
M: Indicates reaction (message, dialog disappearance, page refresh)

How the Mac dialog spins off:

U: Change the setting
M: ..... (silence)

The user is perplexed. Did it work or not? Unknown. The user checks the things out. Dialog didn't happen.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.